Tuesday

26th May 2020

Greece calls EU talks as migrant numbers grow

  • "A situation like 2015 must never be repeated," Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said (Photo: Reuters)

Some 13,000 people were waiting to cross into Greece from Turkey on Saturday evening (29 February), prompting Greece to close the border and call for EU talks.

The International Organisation of Migration (IOM), a UN agency, saw the migrants "at the formal border crossing points at Pazarkule and Ipsala and multiple informal border crossings, in groups of between several dozen and more than 3,000" it said in a statement.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The number of migrants moving ... towards the border grew through the day as cars, taxis, and buses arrived from Istanbul," IOM's Turkey chief Lado Gvilava said.

"Most of those on the move are men but we are also seeing many family groups traveling with young children," Gvilava added.

For his part, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 18,000 people had crossed to Greece on Saturday and that the number would soon grow to 30,000.

Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu said on Sunday that 76,000 people were on the way to Greece.

The new crisis came after Syrian forces killed 34 Turkish soldiers in northwest Syria last week, prompting Erdogan to launch a counter-offensive and to say his 2016 deal with the EU to keep refugees from coming was no longer valid.

Greece reacted by sending its army and navy to the border and by forbidding new asylum applications.

It said it had stopped almost 10,000 illegal crossings on Saturday and its foreign minister, Nikos Dendias, called for an emergency meeting of his EU peers, which is to be held later this week.

"The borders of Greece are the external borders of Europe. We will protect them. I will be visiting the Evros land border with Turkey along with [EU Council president] Charles Michel on Tuesday," Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Twitter.

"Once more, do not attempt to enter Greece illegally - you will be turned back," he added.

"Greece was the target of an organised, mass illegal attempt to violate its borders and has withstood it," Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.

Bulgaria and Greece have also said they were boosting border security.

"Hungary must strengthen the protection of its borders and pay special attention to developments on the Balkan migration route," the Hungarian government said on Friday.

The EU foreign service, its border control agency, and individual EU leaders voiced support.

"The EU-Turkey Statement [migrant deal] needs to be upheld. The EU is engaged in supporting Greece and Bulgaria in addressing the unfolding situation," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

"We are redeploying equipment and additional officers to Greece," Frontex, the EU border control agency, said.

"A situation like 2015 must never be repeated," Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz also said, recalling a year in which more than 1m refugees, most of them from Syria, came to Europe.

"Austria is also ready to support the countries on the external border with additional police officers," Kurz added.

But "if the protection of the EU's external border is unsuccessful, Austria will protect its borders," he said, raising the spectre of internal EU border closures, as happened five years ago.

Fighting continues

At the same time, fighting continued in northwest Syria, increasing the chances that more people will come.

Turkey said it had killed 26 Syrian regime soldiers, shot down planes, and destroyed air defences using swarms of armed drones as well as rocket artillery in recent days.

Russia has fought alongside the Syrian regime for years, amid concern that Nato member Turkey and Russia could accidentally come to blows.

Erdogan said Russia ought to stand back so he could "do what is necessary" in military terms.

But French president Emmanuel Macron urged Turkey and Russia - the two main foreign powers in Syria - to return to a ceasefire instead.

"The president of the [French] republic stressed that an immediate cease to hostilities was needed and called on Russia and Turkey to establish a durable and verifiable ceasefire," Macron's office said on Friday.

"Over the past days, I have been in contact with key actors. I have called for an immediate de-escalation and for a lasting ceasefire, deplored the loss of lives," the EU's Borrell also said.

"There is only a political solution to this crisis," Borrell said.

Migrant deal with Turkey 'still stands', EU says

The European Commission says the 2016 deal with Turkey to stem migration flows towards Greece "still stands". The comments follow reports Turkey had opened its borders to allow refugees and migrants into Greece and Bulgaria.

Opinion

An EU migration policy revolution from the courts?

Critics misread the public mood when they claim that migration restrictions are a sign of creeping authoritarianism. More restrictive court judgements would result in broader support for common migration policies across the EU.

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  3. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic co-operation on COVID-19
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic research collaboration on pandemics

Latest News

  1. Recovery plans unveiled This WEEK
  2. EU and UK stumbling into Irish border crisis
  3. Malta patrol boat 'intimidates' capsized migrants
  4. How coronavirus might hit EU defence spending
  5. Herman Van Rompuy on power and influence in the EU
  6. EU links access to recovery fund to economic advice
  7. EU wants to halve use of pesticides by 2030
  8. Top editors alarmed by media cuts in EU and beyond

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us